Caithness councillors urge public to sign petition
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Caithness councillors have launched a campaign in conjunction with members from other Highland wards against proposed boundary changes they call a "threat to democracy".
Boundary Commission proposals include a cut to councillor numbers in Caithness – one being lost which means an overall drop from 10 to seven over five years.
Caithness civic leader and councillor for the Wick and East Caithness ward Willie Mackay said: “I am proud of the fight waiting in the wings from the Caithness councillors to save Caithness losing a representative as proposed by the latest Boundary Commission review for the forthcoming May 2022 local authority elections."
Caithness councillors have united in their campaign, which is backed by Highland Council, and are petitioning their constituents to sign a petition to save the loss of another representative.
The petition to the Scottish Government was started by Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Struan Mackie who writes in it that "decades of centralisation and the meteoric growth of the Highland capital, Inverness, has seen a steady decline in local services, employment opportunities and local decision making across the region".
Councillor Mackie also says: "It is clear that the proposed boundary changes will further erode local representation in some of our most remote and rural communities on the island of Skye and in the counties of Sutherland, Caithness and Wester Ross.
"We believe that as the Highland undergoes significant social and demographic change and fights continued centralisation from all forms of government; our communities need to maintain their representation and not have it reduced."
Wick and East Caithness councillor Nicola Sinclair said: "The changes proposed by the Boundary Commission would deliver a crippling blow to remote and rural democracy.
"Caithness would lose one councillor, taking us down to seven – a 30 per cent reduction in five years. Councillors in Caithness, Sutherland and Skye and Raasay have joined forces to oppose these plans, as our areas will be hardest hit."
Councillor Sinclair continued: "The plan to reduce seats in remote and rural Highland, while increasing representation in Inverness, will further diminish our voice in the Council Chamber and create an unmanageable workload.
"We need to send the strongest possible message to ministers that these plans are completely unacceptable, and we hope the community and public will support us by signing the petition."
Under the proposals Inverness gains two councillors, going up from 12 to 14 members; Caithness loses one member and will be split into three wards of of two, two and three members; Sutherland loses two members and will have one ward of four; and Skye loses one member and will have one ward with three.
Councillor Sinclair sent out a letter urging support from community groups across the county. "A reduction in councillors will have a significant detrimental impact on rural communities," she wrote.
She continues: "Councillors will be required to cover even larger geographic areas with no reduction in the number of community councils, schools or community groups and initiatives seeking engagement with their local councillor, resulting in a democratic deficit for the communities in question."
Highland Council’s formal response – agreed in September – was to reject the proposals in their entirety and to ask the Scottish Government and Parliament to review the remit of the Boundary Commission in regard to rural authorities.
A Caithness councillors Facebook page has further information at www.facebook.com/caithnesscouncillors/posts/3543075449089351
The councillors' petition can be signed at www.change.org/p/local-government-boundary-comission-for-scotland-reject-the-boundary-commissions-proposals-for-rural-highland